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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Why I'm A Mormon

The short answer is LOVE.

Here's the really long answer.

For a long time I felt like an oddball around people. I thought, surely something must be wrong with me because there were a lot of people and only one of ME. I figured, if I'm struggling to fit in socially, while most everyone appears to be getting along comfortably, there could be something wrong with me. Right?

I wasn't convinced I was a completely odd duck. But after a number of social mishaps and failed choices, I thought it best to appear to go along to get along, ya know what I mean?

I'm 46 years old. This goes back to my earliest memories. I had these outsider feelings throughout my childhood and teenage years. Now some might say, Who hasn't ever felt this way except everybody? True.

Eventually we grow up and realize most of us have faced the same private battles of insecurity. However, for me, my oddball feeling went a bit deeper.

My Younger Days
First there was my home life as a kid. As much as I loved my parents (and I love them even more now that I'm older and wiser), I could see they were in a lot of pain. You see, I come from a long line of leavers. My father's mother (pictured in the post below) had him as a teenager, raised him for a little while, and then left him with her mother when he was eight.

My mother who was left briefly by her own parents as a child, left my oldest brother when he was 16 to start a new family and new life with my father.

My brother struggled, yet somehow he landed on his feet, became a business owner, and had a wife and two kids. He stayed in touch with us for a few years. But my big brother eventually packed up his life and left us without a goodbye or a look back.

Having leavers in a family can cause a lot of pain and confusion. While my parents never left, they did cause some pain and confusion for us kids.

A few of my teachers nicknamed me Smiley.
Here I am in 8th grade.

Nowadays, I choose to remember more laughing and make-believe scenarios as a kid than teary episodes. As the oldest, my two younger siblings took their cues from me. I was the house-jester so to speak. Like most children, I learned early that everyone, even frown-y grownups, loves a good laugh. So I hammed it up as often as it was allowable.

Allowable was rare, so over time I retreated from the world by clamming up. Quietude became my binky and my blanket. As a little girl, I could not fathom a world where we couldn't just be loving all day everyday. Why did people have to be so cranky or mean?

Loving with a Broken Heart
In defiance of some of my parents' ways I vowed to love everybody! My parents' hearts had been broken (they were victims of leavers), they had suffered disappointments. They cautioned me against trusting most people. My rebelling against their advice was both good and bad for me.

I turned 18 and off to college I went, determined to have FUN and LOVE everybody and no one was gonna stand in my way. Ha! I'm pretty sure I sounded just like Sponge-Bob.

Well I don't have to tell you that the world was just tickled pink to welcome an eager-beaver sucker like me. Friends? I wasn't so good at picking them.

At first my happy-happy-joy-joy-ness was infectious. Then it became annoying. Most of my women friends and acquaintances ended up hating me. They thought I was either a big phat-phony or the most naive person on the planet. They found none of it endearing.

By the time I was 27 I was married with kids and had become almost as cranky as my parents used to be. Whoa!! Where did the girl in me go?! Somewhere along my grownup days I'd lost myself. Next, I got divorced and began another years long journey towards finding my girl-self again.

Though I'd grown up attending church, I had stopped attending long ago. I had turned to self-help retreats and spiritual life coaches. I had begun praying again.

I healed my broken heart as best I could. I focused on the job of single-parenting and loving my sweet little girls. Whatever sadness may have lingered, I tried my best to keep it tucked away. Oiy. That didn't work out so good.

Refusing to Forgive
One day my dream man showed up. And while my life did get better, my parenting skills began slipping. After hitting a few walls, I finally figured out that I had ingested the same poison my parents had. It was the poison of unforgiveness.

Unforgiveness was eating away at me and my little family like a quickly spreading disease. As a little girl, I was super-close to the Heavenly Father we call God. It was God who made it easy for me to love my pain-filled parents. I was no angel. But my parents were all I had, so I loved them.

All children are like that. They will love their parents no matter what. That's the God in all of us. It's not taught, we come here with it.

God Is Love
As I grew older, I grew away from God, and I grew sadder. My sadness became bitterness. Why? I was angry at everyone who I thought caused my pain. So I forgave. My forgiving flipped the switch to my heart's light. And you know what happened? The floodgates burst and LOVE began pouring in from EVERYWHERE.

Authentic friendships found me at last! Some of them, I even found right here, through blogging! The recurring theme I've found to be true in my life is, where ever there was LOVE, there was GOD. It made complete sense. The First Parent to us all, gave His only Son, Jesus Christ to save us all. He forgives us of every wrong we do as flawed humans.

Hubby and I with with the missionaries from
our Ward on our baptism day.

I'm a Mormon because after 46 years, I'm finally at home in a church. I can let the light of Jesus Christ shine through me and be just as loving as God intended me to be. I love my church. I love my friends.

This time around, I can say with a heart full of love and ZERO bitterness, I love everybody! Life is so yummy I could sing!

Thanks for loving me enough to read this whole thing!


Wednesday, January 23, 2013

A Conversion

This is me with my daughter, Moonchie, a half hour or so before our baptism last Sunday. Well not hers. Ours. Hubby and I got baptized.

So much has been going on, I haven't known where to begin to post here. A friend from our blog community, Tammy, lost her husband last weekend. We all are mourning with her for this sad loss. We love you, Tammy. You are in our prayers.

And then....

The next day after our baptism, when I got home from work, Moonchie told me her friend, Seth was in a car accident and is in critical condition. He died yesterday. Moonchie has been grief-stricken. I've seen her through the grief of a young person before, also due to a car accident. At the time Moonchie was just 15. It was a long and painful time for our family.

She's 21 now. I pray her grief doesn't drag out as painfully and as years long as it did then. Yesterday, as I tried to console her, I felt like I was saying ALL the wrong things, like I was putting my foot in my mouth. I realize now my fear of her 15th year was gripping me.

This morning I left a love note on her bathroom mirror. I hope my words were more helpful and encouraging than they were yesterday. During times of grief, we don't always know what to say. I try to imagine what I would want someone to say to me and I speak from that imagined place. No matter how many times death comes near, grief times are always hard.

So yah! Life has been really happening over here. And yet.... I do know God has his arms around us all.

And I also know that the difficult times make us stronger and more loving simply by virtue of God's pure love within and for us all.

You're watching the live, flower-like unfolding of a beautiful life over here. Whereas once ago, I might have tamped down, hiding my feelings of wonder and joy about this life. Ha!! There'll be no more of that.

I am thankful for having the most beautiful friends on the planet. Never in a million years did I ever think I could know so many loving people all at once.

I am thankful for my beautiful daughters. I love being their mother, knowing that every single day I have renewed opportunities to parent them better than I did the day before.

I am thankful for the blogosphere, bringing extra love into my world.

I am thankful for my loving husband who makes me feel like a rockstar and princess combined.

Yes, my life is full with its ups and downs. But be assured I am a happy, thankful girl. I have a Heavenly Father who loves me. I love Jesus Christ. I am proud to be a Mormon.

Welcome to my conversion.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

In the Beginning.....

.... of my parenting life, I had no plan.
As I entered adulthood, my main parenting forethought was, I would do better than my own parents had done. Back then, I was in an extended stage of rebellion, much more focused on what my parents had done and were doing wrong, rather than what they had done and were doing right.
Plan? No plan. Just, I'm leaving. College life. Real job. First apartment. Real life. I'm free! No more being bossed around by anyone!
I've since learned that teenage angst can extend well into adulthood. Yah! Who knew?! Not only that, but also, what we think we knew, during emotionally charged periods of life, could in fact turn out to be majorly wrong

Oh the tangled world of adulthood! It's layers of wisdom are tucked into folds which often only straightened with time and age. Just call me origami-girl. Heh. 

When we spent last Christmas Eve at the home of friends of ours from church, one of the moms asked me something that's been bouncing around my noggin ever since. We were making Christmas cookies with the kiddies and my sweet friend turned to me and asked, What kind of traditions do you and your family have at Christmas?
Making Christmas cookies with her grandkids was a family tradition of this mom that could be traced back several generations. I was unprepared for such a question. I simply said, we usually had Christmas dinners together until some of us started moving away. 
But I have been wondering about that question ever since. Traditions. What traditions do we have? 
Ummm.... I dunno. 
Outside of marriage and education, I hadn't given traditions much thought.
My first born, pictured above, came here with specific plans to shake things up in my world. In retrospect, I can tell she knew fairly early that I was unprepared for my parenting gig. So she figured she'd better take the reigns get things moving (smart kid). There was lots of crying and plenty of tantrums. What's a toddler to do when a parent like me refuse to play ball?! *wink wink*
She forced me to think on my feet and figure this parenting thing out .... quick! Don't just stand there, mommy, react to me! She was feisty but extremely charming and loveable.
Despite my initial new-momness confusion, Twinkle and her little sister actually turned out alright. God had His arms around us the whole time, I assure you. It turns out a lot of my parenting magical-ness can also be traced back to the two people who I thought was doing it all wrong when they raised me. Huh! Go figure!
As for traditions. Well, I'll be piecing it together for you, my dear daughters. We have them. I just never thought to speak of them specifically. Here are a few family favorites:
  • We are writers who journal.
  • We are avid readers who love the feel and smell of books and their pages.
  • We pray often (separately), though not together as often as I would have liked. But it's never too late to start?
  • We enjoy cooking.
  • We love tennis.
To my kiddos: there ya go! It's not all of them. But it's a start. I do hope you continue them by reflecting on them and passing them on.

As for my parenting plan? I'm still working on that .... obviously. From what I'm told, parenting has no actual formal ending. Some days that's good news. Other days, not so much. But I love love LOVE being a mom. That's news I found in one of my folds.
What about you readers? What are some of YOUR traditions.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Happy Birthday To My Grandma!

My Grandma & Twinkle, 1989

I miss you always, but especially today. It's been nine years since you've been gone. As much as I miss you I'm glad you got to be with Papa A. like you wanted to be when he passed on. 
During the three years you lived after his death, I knew you were simply waiting to go too. Your heart just wasn't into life without Papa A in it. Your smile was wistful and your look was often far away. 
I wish I'd gotten out of my head sooner, there's so many things I would have told you.
You were the first grownup I was ever so completely fascinated by. I never knew a grownup could laugh and smile so easily until I laid eyes on you. I thought only little kids giggled until I met you. I jaw-dropped and may have even drooled, I thought you were so cool!
Going to your house was like landing on another planet compared to our house when I was a girl. Maybe you could see how unhappy we all were? Well.... we were still in the early days of our new life here in America. Mama and Papa were the most awkward couple I'd ever seen. To us they seemed to frown a lot and to me they also looked unsure.
At five I didn't know much what a happy marriage looked like, but some how I knew theirs was not one. Walking into your home, seeing you and Papa A. exchange secret smiles, it was as if you shared a private joke.
I never wanted to go home! I was all like, Yay! Joy lives here! We kids  figure if we stayed long enough it might rub off on all of us.
I know you hear these words, Grandma. I just wish I would have said them out loud so I could see you smile. Thank you for being such a loving grownup in my world. I'll always cherish these memories of you:
  • The way your eyes locked on mine when we talked. You made me feel like the most important little person in the world.
  • The way you gushed over me whenever I was wearing something you liked, especially a frilly dress.
  • Introducing my palate to soft boiled egg, lightly salted and peppered. Yummy!
  • The way you hugged me close to your bosom, smooshing my face into your boobs. That was mortifying at age eight, but I do miss those hugs now.
  • The way you called me by my first and middle name whenever I was in trouble. I rarely leave my middle initial out of my signature to you.
  • That I had my own drawer in the spare bedroom, with pajamas and clothes for overnights at your house.
  • The way you almost always cried when I was bawling about whatever. How you hated to see me cry.
  • Introducing me to vampire movies. I was too young by Mama and Papa's standards. It was our little secret.
  • The candy dish on your coffee table was always filled with treats for us.
  • We kids could sit on any couch or chair we wanted to in your living room. In Mama and Papa's house the living room was for guests, the den was for us kids.
  • The way you loved to play your music loud, while clapping to get us dancing.
  • The stories you later told me about fleeing Cuba during Castro's reign when you were just 18.
  • Your love for animals. I remember you had both cats and dogs. Pets were unheard of in our house.
  • That two of your favorite foods were snicker bars and pizza. I have the salt & sweet tooth gene too!
  • That you taught me to crochet. 
  • And so much more!
I love you Grandma. And I sure do miss you!
I'm sure you know, Mama and Papa aren't together anymore. You'd be pleasantly surprised to see how they've changed. They became better friends to each other and they laugh more than they did when we were all younger. 
And where once ago, Papa was mad at you all the time, nowadays he brags about you and the things you taught him. Mama recently told me she saved an entire box of all your pictures and important papers. I'm very excited about that since I'm the only one who wants that stuff.
Thanks for making such a lasting impression on us all, especially me. I love so many things in life because I learned by watching you. I like to think God made you special just for me. 
Smooches to you Grandma! I will see you again one day. Until then feel free to roam around in my heart daily. It's made a little bigger because of you.
Happy Birthday Grandma!

Ellen Barnes
January 10, 1927 - May 1, 2004

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Blogging For Posterity

Family is the most important thing to my existence. Whereas, previously, there were some periods in my life - especially before I had children - where I honestly wasn't sure what my priorities were.
I'd been in a tail-on-fire kind of hurry to grow up and went hurtling into adulthood, often crashing into my experiences. Although my parents loved me as best they could, they were in pain, and caused a bit of pain for us kids. We made it, without much permanent scathing, and we're all good -for the most part- with each other in present day.
Now, I know with absolute certainty, what my priorities are. Therefore, after much deliberation, I have decided to expand my ideas on this blog.
For the last year and a half I've been reading a lot of blogs. Seriously. Dozens upon dozens upon dozens of blogs. I had become a professional troll, a voyeur and peeping-Tom. Maybe you're here because you noticed and wondered who I was?
Sometimes it was politics. Not the reporter-news-type politics. Ordinary-blogging-people-type politics. Who wants to read CNN or Fox News kinds of blogs? No offense, but that's too boring for an occasionally A.D.D. and immature chick like me. I mean really! Where's the fun or the funny in that kind of reading?!
Hardly any spelling or grammar errors on those news-type blogs. Almost no random cuss words. Nothing inappropriate. No jokes. You get my meaning. At the very least, if one must blog politically, some of us require a little snark, humor or sarcasm to keep it interesting. Just sayin.
It wasn't long before I found the political topic wasn't enough for me. So I wandered into other blog-reading territory.
I read photographers blogs. Teachers blogs. Medical staff. Book clubs. Sobriety. Addiction. Celebrity Gossip. TV show fan blogs. Cooking blogs. Writers. Editors. Gun owner blogs. Patriots. Veterans. Military family blogs. Humor. Religion. Family. You name it, more than likely, I read it.
Until now, I had no idea what I was looking for in reading all those blogs. I hadn't realized I was even searching for something.
There was something about the family blogs, ya know? Tributes written for members who'd passed on, anniversary posts, pictures of kids, grandparents, friends, reunions.
I know I know. Some of you are groaning maybe? Cuz you know where I'm going with this, right? Oh barf! Not that! But maybe some of you are excited? Can't please everyone, so I won't try.
There is something super important to me. It's my family. And it has occurred to me that some of us come from such dysfunctional beginnings, we hardly ever think about it let alone talk or write about it.
Don't be alarmed, I have no desire to walk down memory lane, blogging about pain. No no no. Pain-talk is my least favorite pastime.
But in keeping my dots connected as an American, I want to continue to document my journey. Especially for our two daughters! It's been fantastic to read so many different kinds family blogs. For me, it's an enjoyable and leisurely study of American life.
But my personal family history, due to a pattern of past pain and dysfunction, has never been recorded for posterity. Through blogging, I've decided, can do this. However, It's not just journaling. It's tying our lives together with the fabric and culture of this great country.
Stick around and see what I mean. I think we'll be surprised at what we can learn from each other on this journey. Remember after the elections when I said let's keep rolling? Well this is me rolling.
Twinkle and Moonchie, this blog is especially for you.

I'm rolling in a new direction.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

HELLO 2013!!

2013, here we go. I enjoy being at the beginning of things. A new book to read, a new journal to write in, a new scrapbook to fill. It's fun to start anew.
2012 was a good year, but I expect 2013 to be even better. New year, new chapter in life. Like the seasons, changes come.
Change is often not easy. I'm usually up for it. Except when it feels thrust upon me and I feel powerless to do anything about it. That kind of change, while I will adapt, it's not always easy.
Facing a new year? That kind of change, I like. I feel in control of things. I can plan if I want to, fly by my pants-seat, whatever I choose.
Changing the kinds of topics I blog on? That's so happening in 2013. I might lose some more followers, sure. That's just how life goes. In real life people come and go, friends can change with the seasons. We're people, we change again and again. My favorite meal this week is different from what it was three years ago.
Change is good.
Major changes have been afoot in my life. If you've been reading this blog for a while, I'm sure some of the changes are noticeable. Maybe they're not. It's okay either way.
I'm excited! I don't even know what I'll be writing about. Isn't that crazy?! I just know my blog content is shifting directions and it's not an overnight thing. I went back and re-read every post since March. I did that to help me continue my creation of this post which I began writing yesterday.
It's our first 2013 post together, as you read what I've written here. I've worried a teensy bit about turning people off with this new direction. But with each passing moment, I'm learning to accept life conditions more and worry about the inevitables less. It's freeing. It feels like flying. I like it.
So away we go! As you can see, I'm exploring the blogger layout options. Be patient with me as I experiment with the look of my blog.
It'll be fun and interesting to observe what this new year brings to us all.
What kind of changes are YOU making in 2013? Do you make resolutions? (I don't) Do you make plans? Or do you just wing it?